Friday, Oct. 1, 2010 | 12:33 a.m.
Palo Verde hosts Cheyenne in a Thursday night game between two traditional Northwest powers. The Panthers have looked nearly invincible while starting the season 5-0, but could the Desert Shields give them a scare in this rivalry game?
Jonathan Maxwell made the most out of his opportunity.
The Palo Verde High junior running back is typically the second option in the Panthers’ run-first offense, behind senior Brandon Wright, one of the state’s top players who has multiple Division-I scholarship offers.
On Thursday night, however, it was Maxwell who received a bulk of the carries in Palo Verde’s convincing 49-0 victory against visiting Cheyenne.
Maxwell rushed for 178 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries, scoring twice in the game’s initial 17 minutes as the Panthers built their lead to 35-0.
Wright, who entered with 1,057 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns in five games, had five touchdowns last week against Cimarron-Memorial. Figuring Cheyenne would key its defensive efforts on stopping Wright, Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost altered his play-calling.
“Our whole game plan was to get (Maxwell) the ball,” Rost said. “We knew we had to get him involved.”
Maxwell scored on a 16-yard run at the 7:36 mark of the first quarter for an early 7-0 lead. When it was all said and done, the 5-foot-10, 165-pound junior had a career night.
More importantly, he gives the Panthers another weapon the rest of the season. Wright only rushed 10 times, scoring twice and gaining 54 yards.
“It helped me because they were focused on trying to stop (Wright),” Maxwell said. “The fullback was getting to the corner and getting some good blocks, too.”
Maxwell’s final touchdown came 90 seconds into the second half when he raced 59 yards for a score to give Palo Verde a 42-0 lead.
It put an exclamation mark on an unexpected blowout. Palo Verde and Cheyenne are traditionally two of the top teams in the Northwest Division, and their annual meeting is always tightly contested.
Unfortunately for the Desert Shields (2-2, 1-2), that was far from the case this year. They struggled to move the ball offensively and had no answers for the duo of Maxwell and Wright.
“We dug ourselves into a deep hole and could never battle out of it,” Cheyenne coach David Cochran said. “We’re going to go back watch the film tomorrow, fix our mistakes and move on.”